Hosts Qatar stormed to the knock-out stage of the AFC Asian Cup 2023 with a 1-0 win against China.
AFC Asian Cup hosts Qatar finished their group stage in style on Monday with a spectacular volley from Hassan Al-Haydos for a 1-0 win over China, which is on the brink of elimination from the tournament.
The deadlock at the Khalifa International Stadium was broken midway through the second half with an unforgettable strike. Akram Afif’s corner was immediately met outside the area by Al-Haydos, who confidently volleyed into the top corner. Both players had just been introduced as substitutes.
Qatar, who had already secured its spot in the knockout stage, topped Group A with nine points and advanced with Tajikistan, who beat last-place Lebanon 2-1 to take second place with four points.
China finished with just two points and failed to score in any of their three games. They have never won the Asian Cup and must now wait for other results but have only the faintest of chances of squeezing into the next round as one of the four best-performing third-place teams in the six groups.
Qatar may have lost all three games on home soil at the 2022 World Cup but have been perfect in the Asian Cup, advancing to the round of 16 by winning all three games without conceding a goal.
Already certain of the top spot heading into the match, defending champions Qatar made nine changes from the previous game, handing the initiative to China who created better chances in the first half.
Wei Shihao had three opportunities to score his team’s first goal. After just seven minutes, he side-footed wide from just inside the area and later, his low shot from close range was saved by Qatar’s Saad Al Sheeb.
Wei went close again right before the break with a header that just cleared the bar.
After Al-Haydos’s superb goal in the 66th, China had the ball in the net with three minutes remaining but Jiang Shenglong’s shot was ruled out as the ball had gone out of play in the buildup.
In the group’s other fixture, Tajikistan rallied to beat Lebanon and advance to the knockout stage for the first time.
“We made history today and this is the biggest thing for the Tajikistan people,” coach Petar Segrt said. “It was difficult but we kept fighting and we did it.”
Lebanon took the lead early in the second half with a curling shot from Bassel Jradi but were reduced to 10 men after 54 minutes because of a foul by Kassem El Zein.
Tajikistan had two goals ruled out for offside but finally scored with 10 minutes remaining. Parvizdzhon Umarbaev scored, then Nuriddin Khamrokulov headed home a winning goal in the second minute of second-half stoppage time.